Lloyd Bacon – Footlight Parade (1933)

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Plot Synopsis [AMG]
The last—and to some aficionados, the best—of choreographer Busby Berkeley’s three Warner Bros. efforts of 1933, Footlight Parade stars James Cagney as a Broadway musical comedy producer. Cagney is unceremoniously put out of business when talking pictures arrive. To keep his head above water, Jimmy hits upon a swell idea: he’ll stage musical “prologues” for movie theatres, then ship them out to the various picture palaces in New York. Halfway through the picture, Cagney is obliged to assemble three mammoth prologues and present them back-to-back in three different theatres. There are all sorts of backstage intrigues, not the least of which concerns the predatory hijinks of gold-digger Claire Dodd and the covetous misbehavior of Cagney’s ex-wife Renee Whitney. Joan Blondell plays Jimmy’s faithful girl-friday, who loves him from afar; Ruby Keeler is the secretary who takes off her glasses and is instantly transformed into a glamorous stage star; Dick Powell is the “protege” of wealthy Ruth Donnelly, who makes good despite this handicap; Frank McHugh is Cagney’s assistant, who spends all his time moaning “It’ll never work”; and Hugh Herbert is a self-righteous censor, who ends up in a censurable position. The last half-hour of Footlight Parade is a nonstop display of Busby Berkeley at his most spectacular: the three big production numbers, all written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, are “By a Waterfall”, “Honeymoon Hotel”, and “Shanghai Lil”, the latter featuring some delicious pre-code scatology, a tap-dance duet by Cagney and Keeler, and an out-of-left-field climactic salute to FDR and the NRA! Continue reading

Lloyd Bacon – An Innocent Affair (1948)

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From start to finish this little known throwback to the best mad-cap screwball comedies of the 1930s is guaranteed to tickle the most jaded funny bone. Vincent Doane, played by Fred MacMurray, is a successful advertising executive who has come under severe scrutiny by his wife of five years, Paula, played by the gorgeous Madeleine Carroll, for the simple reason that he has been keeping rather late nights trying to woo a rather wealthy client, a Mr. Fraser, into signing a lucrative contract. The problem is Paula has serious doubts about the veracity of her husband’s story, thinking that Mr. Fraser is in reality, well, you guessed it. In order to cover up the real identity of his client–and it really is a client–Vincent goes to great lengths, entangling himself further and further into a hilarious web of lies and misadventures that, in the hands of a master comedian like Fred MacMurray, are simply unforgettable. The give-and-take between MacMurray and Carroll is in the best vein of their previous pairings, and despite the fact that this would be their fifth, and final film together, their marvelous on-screen chemistry shows no indication of flagging. Continue reading

Lloyd Bacon – 50 Million Frenchmen (1931)

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Olsen and Johnson on the loose in France.

50 Million Frenchmen is the film adaptation of the hit Broadway play with all of Cole Porter’s music eliminated, with the exception of “You Do Something To Me”, which is used as background music. The songs were omitted because box office receipts for musicals were down and Warner Brothers apparently didn’t want to risk a flop. The movie was originally filmed in 2-color Technicolor, but all that remains is this black and white version.

This pre-Code comedy has some daring moments (Olsen and Johnson wickedly rummaging through lady’s lingerie) and a real vaudeville feel to the humor. Look for Bela Lugosi in a small cameo as a sinister swami who falls afoul of the boys’ slapstick antics. Continue reading

Lloyd Bacon – Sit Tight (1931)

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Plot: A movie musical about…wrestling? Turns out the public grew weary of musicals while Sit Tight was made, so most of the tunes were jettisoned prior to release. What remains is a wrestling comedy filled with plenty of pre-Code friskiness. Athletic funnyman Joe E. Brown plays Jojo Mullins, who has an eye for the ladies although his heart belongs to the manager (Winnie Lightner) of the health club where he works. Eager to show the ring prowess he learned by correspondence, Jojo gets his chance in a big-time match. Paul Gregory and Claudia Dell (rumored to be the model for Columbia Pictures logo) play the subplot’s young lovebirds in this energetic comedy that’s one of nearly 50 films directed by Lloyd Bacon in the 1930s. From Warner Brothers Studio! Continue reading

Lloyd Bacon – 42nd Street (1933)

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Plot:

Julian Marsh, an sucessful Broadway director, produces a new show, inspite of his poor health. The money comes from a rich old man, who is in love with the star of the show, Dorothy Brock. But she doesn’t reply his love, because she is still in love with her old partner. At the night before the prmiere, Dorothy Brock breaks her ankle, and one of the chorus girls, Peggey Sawyer tries to take over her part. Continue reading

Lloyd Bacon – Marked Woman [+Extras] (1937)

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Bette Davis’ famous walk-out from her home studio of Warner Bros. may have hurt her financially, but in the long run it paid off with bigger parts in better films. Like many Warners films of the period, Marked Woman was “torn from today’s headlines.” Specifically, it was inspired by the recent downfall of gangster Lucky Luciano, who at one time controlled all prostitution activities in New York.

The ladies herein are euphemistically characterized as “night club hostesses,” but when Luciano look-alike Johnny Vanning (Eduardo Cianelli) shows up at a fancy clip-joint to give the girls their marching orders, the audience can tell exactly what’s going on. Continue reading

Michael Curtiz & Lloyd Bacon – Alias the Doctor (1932)

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SYNOPSIS: Karl Muller and his foster brother, Stephan Brenner, leave their farm in the Austrian countryside, and travel to Vienna to study medicine. Karl is in love with his foster sister, Lottie Brenner, and would rather work as a farmer, but in deference to the wishes of his foster mother, Mrs. Brenner, he studies hard and is named valedictorian of his class. Stephan, on the other hand, enjoys drinking and flirting more than studying. One night, while drunk, he performs an illegal operation on his girl friend Anna. After she becomes very ill, he confesses everything to Karl, who agrees to try to help her, even though he does not yet have his license. While Karl is with Anna, she dies, and he takes full blame for the operation in order to spare Mrs. Brenner’s feelings. He is not allowed to graduate and spends time in prison. After he leaves prison, he returns home to find that Stephan has died. Karl is eager to return to farming, but after he successfully operates on a boy injured in an accident in front of the house, Mrs. Brenner convinces him to pose as Stephan and continue his work as a surgeon. Continue reading